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Hanukkah Stabbing Suspect Faces Federal Hate Crime Charges

NOEL KING, HOST:

The man accused of attacking people in a rabbi's home in Monsey, N.Y., over the weekend is now facing federal hate crime charges. The FBI said the man, Grafton Thomas, seems to have been driven by anti-Semitism, and they're citing his journal entries and his Internet search history. Gwynne Hogan of member station WNYC is with us now. She's been following this story. Gwynne, good morning.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So authorities got hold of this man's personal effects. What was Grafton Thomas searching for online?

HOGAN: That's right. Federal prosecutors say that in his search history on his phone, they found he conducted searches like, why did Hitler hate the Jews, German Jewish temples near me, prominent companies founded by Jews in America. They also found journals with his writings in them, and they found anti-Semitic phrases in them, as well as swastikas.

KING: All right - so certainly a lot there that would appear to be incriminating. Now, here's a different take on this. Yesterday, a woman named Wendy Paige talked to reporters. She is Grafton's mom's pastor. Let's listen to what she said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WENDY PAIGE: Kim never expressed to me at any point as her pastor for the last - more than 10 years that she was afraid of or scared of her son in any way. I've been at visits in the hospital. I've been at visits with him at the house. He's always been a gentle giant with mental illness.

KING: Now, that is also his family's view of this man. He has a mental illness, but he is not an anti-Semite. What else do we know about him for certain?

HOGAN: Right. He was - we know he was raised in Queens by a single mom. His mother immigrated from Guyana. He was in the Marines briefly after high school but left following an injury. For the last decade or so, he suffered from severe mental illness. He was in and out of the hospital, was on disability for it. His attorney, Michael Sussman, is asking for a psychiatric evaluation of his client.

KING: OK. Let me ask you about how people in Monsey and in other Jewish communities in the area are reacting to this.

HOGAN: You know, I was up there yesterday, and many of the people that I talked to said they were scared. You know, this is just the latest violent attack on an Orthodox Jewish community. You may remember not a month ago in Jersey City, there was a mass shooting at a kosher supermarket. So it's sort of these series of incidents that have people feeling on edge, feeling like they're a target. This is a community that wears, you know, traditional dress, and so they're more visibly Jewish than other groups. And they've said that they've seen this kind of increase in hate speech that first started online, and then they saw it in real life with drawings of swastikas in physical locations, and now there are physical attacks.

KING: Gwynne Hogan of member station WNYC. Thanks, Gwynne.

HOGAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEBS' "SHELLS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.